Hallowe'en Rift, Mendip Hills

Excursions [and other notes] involved in the exploration of Hallowe'en Rift; a cave, so far, formed within Triassic Dolomitic Conglomerate.

The exploration of Hallowe'en Rift was started in 1982 by Trevor Hughes with other members of the Bristol Exploration Club, then during the early 1990's Vince Simmonds and other, mostly, local diggers were active at a number of locations within the cave, including the start of the present dig with Graham Johnson in December 1991. The current phase of exploration was commenced in 2009, with the majority of the early work being carried out by Vince Simmonds and Alex Gee, now the regular team includes Rob 'Tav' Taviner, Graham 'Jake' Johnson, Nick Hawkes, Matt Tuck, Jonathon Riley, Paul 'Brockers' Brock and Roz Simmonds. There has been regular assistance from Duncan Price and Mike Moxon, and occasional help from Mike Willett, John 'Tangent' Williams, Pete Bolt, Bob Smith, Callum and Hazel Simmonds, with a couple of guest appearances by that well-known antipodean, Ray Deasy.

21st October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 22, 2017 09:36:41
With Matt, Nick, Tav, Jake and Brockers.

Matt, Nick and Tav set about clearing the bags and rocks stacked in the entrance. Jake went ahead to start digging, Paul went to the top of the slope to load the skip with the bags and rocks left there on Thursday evening, I was hauling the skip down and shuttling the spoil back to the entrance, ready to be hauled to surface.

Thursday's spoil cleared we moved-up to clear today's spoil. Progress was slower today the way forward being obstructed by some rather large slabs of rock and calcite. Although loose, these slabs were determined not to succumb to Jakes attentions utilising a variety of bars, hammering and chiselling. These slabs will require the use of some induced rapid speleo-genesis on Tuesday evening. It was just very frustrating the way ahead looks so enticing.

Ninety loads out to the surface, plus one large rock that Nick had managed to prise out from somewhere, 'idle hands make mischief' is probably an apt saying in this instance.

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19th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 20, 2017 05:54:05
With Jonathon, Jake, Nick and Brockers.

Nick digging, Jake clearing, Brockers on top of the slope and Jonathon was on the haul, shuttle and stack. I was in Tuck Shop, capping rocks and bagging-up the gravel and finer sediments. Two digging, it was busy again.

Above me, I could hear Nick rattling slabs, Jake swinging the sledge, then, 'oohs and aahs', Jake reported back, "it looks good". Unfortunately, time passed all too quickly and soon the session was over. Tuck shop was now looking much tidier, so I packed away the capping kit and climbed-up to see what Nick had uncovered. There was a gaping hole, albeit just too narrow to pass...back in the day...into open-space, it looks easily body-sized, but can't quite see all of it. The way ahead, does indeed, look good.

The digging on Saturday should reveal more delights, but there are a lot of bags and rocks to shift as well!

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14th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 15, 2017 09:13:01
With Tav, Jake, Nick, Jonathon and Brockers.

Jonathon digging, assisted by Nick, Tav went into the 'Lower' Series to dig through the connection from that side, Jake was at the top of the slope, sending down loaded skips to me, on the haul and shuttle. Brockers was on the surface in charge of spoil dispersal.

Someone had said "that the digging might be a bit slower today", with three digging, how wrong that statement was. The loaded skips kept coming as fast as they could be shifted. Towards the end of the session, Tav had dug through the connection and this allowed a shift in position to clear the backlog. Jake and Nick took over the haul and shuttle, I went up to the surface to help-out Brockers. Today's count: 66 bags and 17 loads of rock, 83 skip-loads in total. Brockers had even managed to get some wall building done, good effort. Another fine session and thirsty work, ready for the pub.

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12th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 13, 2017 06:00:27
With Jake, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Tav.

Brockers at the forefront doing the excavation, Nick clearing away the filled bags and shifting the rocks from Tuck Shop, Tav on the slope unloading the skip and transferring the load to Jake on the haul. Jake was later joined by Jonathon, who was running late, on the shuttle, I was on the surface.

The loaded skips were coming to the surface, at a rate, almost one-a-minute, it was warm and sweaty work, thankfully not plagued by midges. There wasn't time to add to the wall, but the store of rock now starting to accumulate, means there is a good supply for when the opportunity arises. 71 loads to the surface, 39 bags and 31 loads of rock, I was relieved when it was over, by now, I was thirsty and the back was, just beginning to twinge.

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10th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, October 11, 2017 06:20:33

Down to Tuck Shop to break-up some of the boulders there, using a combination of capping and tapping [with the sledge hammer]. One drill-bit succumbed to the task and was discarded. Created a decent pile of rock to be removed sometime. There are still plenty of rocks awaiting size reduction, that's a job for another day. Exited the cave.

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7th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, October 09, 2017 06:06:55
With Jake, Jonathon, Nick, Brockers and 'Duncy Sumpy' Price.

While Jake, Nick and Duncy set about clearing Thursday's backlog of bags and rock from the entrance, Jonathon, Brockers and me headed-off to the dig.

I was digging, somehow drawn to making the connection, something that was inevitable anyway, Jonathon was clearing away from behind me, and in between times, set-about breaking the rocks left in Tuck Shop with the sledge. Brockers was at the top of the slope hauling the loaded skip and transferring the load to Duncy, who had, by now, positioned himself on the haul, while Nick did the shuttle, Jake remained on the surface, plagued by midges.

At the dig-face, it wasn't long before the ice-axe was retrieved from the 'Lower' Series, the passage beyond clearly visible. By the end of the session, I could get my feet and legs through the connection, turned around, my head and shoulders in, but the chest would not fit through - curse my old, inflexible body - back in the day, when setting-out on this long emotional journey... On one attempt to push through, I had to call for Jonathon's assistance to give me a pull so that I could extract myself from the squeeze. Had to face it, the connection needs enlargement, so gave it up for another day.

Jonathon was clearly, 'digger of the day' for his effort in clearing a large part of the rocks left in Tuck Shop.

Over 140 skip-loads had been hauled out to the surface, including about 50 loads from Thursday. A sterling effort by Jake. Refreshments beckoned, we made our way down the hill to the farm, and from there, to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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5th October 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, October 06, 2017 05:48:00
With Jake, Jonathon and Nick.

Jake was digging, I was behind, clearing the bag and rock to Jonathon, on the slope, also managed to clear a few loads of rock from the Tuck Shop. Nick was on the haul and shuttle, stacking the spoil at the bottom of the entrance.

Digging, comprises a mixture of fine sandy silt, rocks and lumps of detached calcite flowstone, some of these quite large. Jake pulled-out one slab, to reveal open space beyond, interestingly, to the north/northeast, about 3m, in all. The end of an ice-axe, that had been placed in the furthest reaches, at the end of the 'Lower' Series, could be seen clearly, the connection is not too far away. There are gaps all over the place, hours of digging fun for the future. A good session.

The walk down to the farm was illuminated by a fantastic big, bright harvest Moon.

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30th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, October 01, 2017 08:34:38
With Nick, Jake, Matt and Jonathon.

Nick and Jake went along to the dig, reeling in the wire as they went, I climbed down the pot, along Toil and Trouble, left-side of T Junction to carry-out another voice test. Not only did we achieve a positive voice connection but, a visual one too, I could see Nick's light and then a gloved hand.

A successful test done, I returned to help Matt on the haul and shuttle, Jonathon was on the surface, hauling-out and adding to the wall and spoil heap. A constant flow of rocks and bags kept us busy. 30 skip-loads of rock and 59 bags were hauled up the surface.

Towards the end of the session, a call came back from the dig, it was looking interesting, intrigued, I couldn't resist going up to have a look.

To the left of the connection, there was open space behind a jumble of rocks and slabs of flowstone. Although Nick and I tried to move a large slab to get a better look, time was moving on, we decided to leave it to the next session, some more digging is required. The loose sediment was tidied up and the last couple of bags and a few rocks were dragged-out to the surface.

Satisfied with the mornings progress, it was time to make our way to the Hunter's Lodge Inn.

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28th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Fri, September 29, 2017 05:56:27
With Roz.

Drilled just the two holes, 550mm x 12mm, into a slab of rock that's obstructing access to the potential connection into the 'Lower Series'. It didn't take very long, so went down into the Tuck Shop to swing the sledge at a couple of rocks, quickly decided that capping was a better option and returned to the primary task. All connected, retired to a safe distance, the job brought to a satisfactory conclusion. More rock could be heard falling into the Tuck Shop.

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26th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 27, 2017 05:55:00
With Jake.

Although we had talked about it on the weekend, less of a turn-out than anticipated, so didn't achieve as much as hoped for.

Started capping some of the boulders piled in the Tuck Shop, while Jake busied himself digging at the potential 'connection'. We thought that an obstructing slab of rock might succumb to capping, but that didn't happen, the rock proved too thick and solid. I did, manage to get the capping rod well and truly stuck and it required some effort to free it. Decided then, that the rock would require the application of a more persuasive technique and I will return on Thursday evening with the necessary materials.

The bags Jake had filled were hauled to the entrance to be removed on the weekend.

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23rd September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 24, 2017 09:13:23
With Jake, Nick and Jonathon.

Initially, I went along to the dig-face, reeling in the wire as I progressed, to check the results of Tuesday's endeavour. The slab of rock was shattered, much of it now down in the Tuck Shop. Duly satisfied, I returned to the surface to haul-out the rocks and bags. Jonathon cleared the dig, Nick on top of the slope transferring the spoil to Jake on the haul and shuttle.

It was non-stop action on the surface as a steady stream of rocks and bags were removed from the cave. It was very warm work but, thankfully I wasn't pestered by flies and midges. There was a brief respite, when the skip was worn-out and required a replacement, luckily there was one available. 40 bags were hauled out and emptied, some of these had come to the end of use and were incorporated into the spoil heap. It was too busy to count the number of skip-loads of rock, but they must have equalled, if not exceeded the number of bags. About 6m length of wall was heightened and the spoil dumped behind it.

At the end of the morning's session, a brief discussion, it was decided that many of the rocks in the Tuck Shop would need capping, a job for Tuesday evening. We can do another voice test and re-assess the next stage to make the connection. I can try arranging a Thursday trip if required.

It had been thirsty work this morning and we were now ready for refreshment, to the Hunter's Lodge Inn!

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19th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 20, 2017 06:40:33

On arrival at the dig-face, after some consideration, a slight change to my original thoughts. I decided to remove a large chunk of rock that currently forms the 'floor', we should then be at the same level as the potential connection. There are a couple of rocks at ceiling height that we'll need to keep a watchful eye.

Drilled 7no. hole, relatively evenly spread, c.350mm-550mm depth due to variable thickness of rock and the height to ceiling. It took a bit longer than usual mainly because I needed to keep changing the drill bit, and pay attention to the drop down into the Tuck Shop.

The evening's task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion from Stal Bend, where a rumble of falling rock could be heard. Plenty to shift on the weekend.

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16th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 17, 2017 14:41:35
With Jake, Tav, Nick, Matt, Brockers and Jonathon.

A good team today, me and Tav went to the dig-face, Brockers on top of the slope, Jonathon and Nick on the haul and shuttle, Jake and Matt on the surface, hauling-out and wall building.

As expected, there was plenty of debris. I cleared the rocks, gravel and fine sediment from the connection area, passing bags etc. back to Tav. When that was cleared, Tav went down into Tuck Shop to clear debris and break-up some of the rocks there with the sledge. Meanwhile, I set to work with hammer and bar to clean-out the potential way forward. That done, I decided to head down the pot and along Toil and Trouble to try out another voice test to pinpoint the next move, it's close, I thought I caught the merest glimpse of Tav's light, but this could not be confirmed. I returned to the dig-face to discuss with Tav where the aural connection was best heard and to formulate a plan for mid-week.

At the end of the session, 85 loads to the surface, just about an equal split between bags and rock. Some more fine dry-stone wall was also created.

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12th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 13, 2017 06:35:23

Another 7no. holes to continue with the connection into the 'lower series'. The holes were drilled a little shorter than usual, c.350-400mm, only used-up two batteries. Peering down into the Tuck Shop, there are a lot of rocks that require capping at some time in the future. Lots of 'mossies' and midges in the cave.

All sounded good from Stal Bend, there was a satisfying tumble of rocks.

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9th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, September 13, 2017 06:29:00
I was on a digging trip to the Gower this weekend, but a team did go to HR and Tav supplied the following report:

"HR – 09.09.2017 Tav, Jon, Matt, Jake

Jake texted that he would meet us at the dig so t’other three made their way up to the Tuck Shop, which was a scene of devastation. There was big pile of rocks on the floor with a couple of alarming lumps hanging out of the roof. With just three diggers we 'ummed and ahhed' a bit about the wisdom of carrying on and had just about decided to knock the session on the head when Jake arrived, which swung the pendulum back in favour of digging. We set about removing the spoil – Jake loading, Jon on the slope, Tav on haul and shuttle and Matt on the surface. 45 loads of rock and gravel were duly removed – a mere fraction of the stuff that remains in the Tuck Shop. Loads still to clear but the face (according to Jake) is ready for another bang. Raining on the surface so we applied the 'old' adage ...

When rain clouds form round Pen Hill mast,

It’s quick lads, to the Hunters’ fast"

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8th September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sat, September 09, 2017 07:02:02

A technical problem meant I was unable to collect the necessary supplies on Tuesday, so a Friday evening trip to loosen some rock.

The cows in the field were a bit excitable this evening!

At the top of the slope, in the north-east corner, drilled 6no. holes to start opening-up the connection to the 'lower' series. The evening was bought to a conclusion with a satisfying tumbling of rock. Should be plenty of stuff to clear tomorrow, but not for me, I'm going to the Gower.

It was still quite early so gave the Hunter's a miss.

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2nd September 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, September 03, 2017 08:21:46
With Jake, Jonathon and Tav.

Jake in the Tuck Shop, I was on top of the slope, Jonathon on the haul and shuttle, Tav opted for surface duty. Last week's bags were cleared from the entrance, followed by the rocks left in the Tuck Shop.

When the debris was cleared, a discussion ensued regarding the best spot to engineer a connection to the 'Lower Series'. The recent survey made this clearer and a likely spot was chosen. Jake set-about digging away some loose sediment and rocks, then re-located a small 'stal boss' in a new position. Meanwhile, I went down into the 'Lower Series', beyond T-Junction, to try another voice connection. It was clear and a conversation could take place, there isn't a light connection possible, at present. I spent a short time scratching away at the potential way forward, where there is a small air-space over the top of the sediment, generally in the direction we want to go.

No-one else ventured along Toil and Trouble, I had a quick jaunt towards Trick or Treat, but decided against the muddy, wet puddle, no spare, dry 'shreddies' being my feeble excuse. I joined the team on the surface and we had a quick discourse regarding the plan. I will order the necessary supplies and attend to matters during the coming week.

An earlier visit to the Hunter's Lodge Inn than anticipated.

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26th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 27, 2017 09:09:20
With Brockers, Matt and Tav.

Brockers and Matt did the digging, stashing bags and rock in the Tuck Shop, Tav and me went surveying. Carried-out a line survey from the top of the pot through Merlin's, and then went into the lower series to survey the passage to the north-west of T-Junction. It has been a little while since I last went along Toil and Trouble, a passage well-named. At the end, we could hear Brockers and Matt in the Tuck Shop, but couldn't make contact, they were far too busy.

The abandoned dig beyond Nick's pit prop ends in a sediment filled passage, there doesn't appear to be any solid walls or ceiling, within the sediment are more detached lumps of calcite flowstone. The wooden prop has now carbonised.

When the surveying was finished, we returned to the others to start hauling some of the spoil out. We shifted the bags, leaving the rock in the Tuck Shop, the bags were left stacked in the entrance.

Tav, later drew-up the line survey and distributed by email. To the east of the entrance there is 110m (361 feet) of passage.

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19th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 20, 2017 08:31:26
With Brockers, Tav, Nick and Jonathon.

Carried-up the replacement skips and hauling rope that I had sorted during the week. I headed-up to the end to start clearing the debris, while Tav headed-off into the lower series for sound testing. Nick and Jonathon sorted-out the skip replacement, Brockers was on surface duty.

The aural connection was inconclusive, not as clear as last-time, perhaps the loose spoil was muffling the sound. Jonathon could hear Tav from the top of the slope, and Tav said he heard me when I shouted-out in the passage leafing west. Jonathon's 'crack' might warrant further investigation. Tav returned from below and joined Nick on the haul and shuttle.

Cleared the backlog of bags and rock from Tuck Shop, in between bagging the loose gravel and cobbles and loading the skip with boulder-size rock. After the initial rush, it got slower as digging commenced. The fissure [south] is filled with fine sandy silt and large cobbles and boulders of mostly detached calcite flowstone, some is well-packed. The fill in the floor is relatively easy to work with the pick, there are some obstructing boulders that will require prying-out. Another digging session before IRS needed again.

Over 60 loads out to the surface.

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15th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 16, 2017 06:21:20
With Roz.

Arrived at the Tuck Shop to find there was still bags and rocks there, this was probably a consequence of the issues with the skip slowing things down. The scarred rock floor n the way-up from Stal Bend might be testament to the struggle.

Continued to widen/deepen the fissure [south] off Tuck Shop. 6no. holes, not all to the full depth, silly me! didn't bring all the batteries and had forgotten that one was part-used. Still got the job done and brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Really needs a sound test on Saturday to check on direction and progress.

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12th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, August 14, 2017 17:15:19

I was away this weekend, digging in a cave on Gower. The following report was penned by Nick:

"Four fine healthy able bodies in peak performance spent another couple of fun filled hours hauling dirt underground for no logical or apparent reason.

Friar Tuck set up position on the surface oscillating between that and the underground shuttle while Jonathon was in the strongly favoured haul and occasional shuttle position. Nick was on the sloping haul and transition zone and Dr. Brockers led the surgical extraction duties.

The way on, looks enticing as ever!. Still some mud on the floor left to clear so no consensus reached as to whether a bang is needed. Its recommended nevertheless that Vince and Ros go for their midweek banging session anyway, they can always try the extreme end where Jonathon left the vast gaping lead a few weeks ago, just to ensure there is enough spoil to be retrieved next weekend.

On a technical note, the designer skip was put into use on the long haul. Unfortunately, while the shear-beauty of the item cannot be faulted, the practicality was somewhat lacking. The inflexibility of the titanium steel washing machine base causes excessive friction so that only one bag could be dragged at a time and it also induces fervent cursing. Back to the drawing board for that one!. 57.6 bags to surface +/- 11.2. (OK, there was a counting error)"

Site personnel were Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Matt.

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8th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 09, 2017 06:04:47

Continued work to widen the fissure off Tuck Shop. 6no. holes, using the drill-bit donated by Brockers, circa 500-550mm depth x 12mm dia., spread along the left-side. There should be rock debris to move, plus the sediment at floor level, and the bags leftover from last session, plenty to do for the weekend!

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5th August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, August 06, 2017 12:35:28
With Jonathon, Brockers and Ray Deasy.

I went along to the Tuck Shop with Ray, while I started to fill bags with gravel and fine sediment. Ray went along to the end of Merlin's to have a look-around there. Meanwhile, Brockers sorted-out a replacement skip, had to use the skip from the end of Merlin's as we had forgotten to bring the 'designer' skip [by Jake] from the shed.

Ray went to the top of the slope, Brockers on the haul and shuttle with Jonathon on the surface. Bags and rock then were removed from the Tuck Shop out to the surface, 35 loads in total. There are still about a dozen bags and a few rocks in the Tuck Shop, but Ray wanted to cycle over to Shepton Mallet to get to Thrupe Lane, so we made our way-out of the cave.

I had made sure the left wall was cleared ready for some further attention on Tuesday evening. At floor level, there's plenty of fine sediment with the occasional rock or lump of detached flowstone to be dug-out too. When this is cleared it might be an idea to carry-out another aural test.

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1st August 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, August 02, 2017 06:05:19

Went to the Tuck Shop, 6no. holes, spread along the east-side of the fissure going south. The aim is to widen the narrow gap and make the link to the aural connection with the passage left of the T-Junction. There is also the possibility there might be another lead to follow.

The first use of the new drill, batteries didn't have much charge, good job I had brought some spares.

It sounded much louder from Stal Bend.

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29th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 30, 2017 09:09:43
With Tav, Nick, Brockers, Jonathon and Matt, returned from the 'Motherland'.

A good team turn-out today, I just hoped there would be plenty to do.

Quickly up to the end to assess the damage done, there was spoil to be removed, so I left Jonathon to carry-on and went back to the Tuck Shop. Brockers and Nick joined Jonathon to help with digging and spoil removal.

Meanwhile, Tav had gone down the pot and along Toil and Trouble, going left at T-junction, and over the top of the chamber into the bedding, a dig-site we had abandoned a long time ago. There is a rift feature to one-side of the bedding. Tav and I made an aural connection between here, and the fissure leading south from the Tuck Shop. Tav returned, a discussion took place, there can't be much in the way to link the two areas, and further digging would be better accessed from Merlin's, so it was decided, let's make the round trip.

There was spoil to shift, so Tav went to the haul and shuttle, I went to the top of the slope, Nick moved into the Tuck Shop. Bags and rock were then moved out of the cave, up to Matt, who had been waiting, patiently, on the surface.

Nick, in an effort to keep himself occupied, began to open-up the fissure south, so we had three people digging, all in different directions.

The hauling became increasingly difficult, the bottom of the skip was breaking-up, and was scouring mud from the passage floor. We had to haul just one bag at a time. It was getting towards the end of the session, another personnel shift was made to clear the remaining bags out to the surface.

Over forty loads, out to the surface and positive decisions made. Jonathon reported that a small crack had opened at the end of digging in the south-west lead.

A successful morning.

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25th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 26, 2017 06:22:29
With Roz.

Roz isn't a fan of bulls and was less than impressed to be told that 'bully' was in the field we were about to walk through. She walked a wide diversion to the stile into the wood.

In the cave, 6no. short holes (300mm) drilled, at the current end of Merlin's, gone back to the south-west lead. Got two of the long holes (460mm) complete and was on the third when, disaster struck ( a bit of melodrama!), yellow sparks, smoke, the acrid smell of electrical burning, the drill - dead, or, at least dying. Had to make-do with the hole that had been drilled, applied plenty of tamp, did the best that could be done. Will have to wait until the weekend to see the results.

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22nd July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 23, 2017 07:15:01
With Jake, Tav, Jonathon and Brockers.

Brockers cleared the bags and debris, Jake in the Tuck Shop, Tav on the [slippery] slope, Jonathon doing the haul and shuttle, leaving me on the surface, hauling skips and managing spoil dispersal. Rather surprisingly, I wasn't at all bothered by pesky, buzzing flies.

The rock that came out of the cave was added to the walls, finer sediment and gravel was levelled and compacted. Six dozen skip loads (51 bags and 21 skips of rocks), including 20 bags left-over from last weekend were shifted, each load somewhere about 10kg.

The news from the end, a solid rock had been reached, so no-go in a downwards direction. Another discussion ensued, continue the dig that leads to the south-west for a while and see how that develops, it might intersect something. I will arrange something for a mid-week visit to loosen the area. And so...to the pub.

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18th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 19, 2017 06:27:19

A warm and humid evening, so decided to wear cotton overalls, anticipating the cave would be dry enough...and it was!

There are cows in the field with young, and a wary eye was kept on the bull, in truth they hardly noticed me as I strolled up to the stile.

In the cave, 6no. holes drilled to loosen rock in the floor at the west extent of Merlin's, where the passages appear to converge. A bit awkward clambering over the stash of bags left-over from the weekend, but job done.

The conclusion shook a pheasant of its perch, I could hear flying away in alarm. The frogs are still in the entrance.

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15th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 16, 2017 07:13:29
With Jake and Jonathon.

I went along to the end of Merlin's, reeling in the wire along the way, to start bagging the rocks and gravel. Jonathon and Jake cleared the backlog of spoil from last weekend, along with the bags and rocks that I was loading into the skip. Eventually, the loose spoil was bagged and digging slowed. Jake and Jonathon then moved back to clear the spoil stashed at the top of the slope to the entrance, and then, out to the surface.

Meanwhile, I got to work with hammer, chisel and bar to remove shattered rock, filled bags were stashed in "Nick's Folly". When clean, it was possible to get a better look at the narrow fissure, at most it's 15mm-20mm wide, and mostly, filled with fine sediment, not really a viable lead. I pondered for a while, Jake and Jonathon weren't going to return, I started to scratch around at the end of Nick's Folly, where the passages appear to converge, perhaps digging down in the floor here might reveal something. I'll loosen things-up a bit on Tuesday evening.

12:30, time to go and find the rest of the team and head-off to the Hunter's Lodge for refreshments.

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11th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 12, 2017 06:38:03
With Roz.

The entrance was wet after a rainy day, rest of the cave was okay, although it is still a little moist in the Tuck Shop.

Drilled 6no. holes, plus an extra one for the trimmings, either side of the narrow fissure, aiming to proceed downwards. The holes were well-stemmed and plenty of tamp was applied. All good.

Still raining when we exited the cave, the dampness has brought the little frogs out of hiding in the narrow rift at the rear of the entrance.

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8th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Tue, July 11, 2017 07:04:39
A large part of the team, were elsewhere this weekend. I was on the Gower Peninsular helping-out with a cave dig there. Therefore, a depleted team attended Hallowe'en Rift.

Jake penned the following:

"Jonathon & me.

Cleared the loose, thirteen bags and a few rocks. Doesn't look good straight ahead. Stacked in Tuck Shop. Maybe worth blasting-out the floor. Might be worth visiting our other sites beyond the pot, now we have a bigger team? Anyway, one or two shots in the floor to see if it widens sounds good, long bar can be hammered into the floor quite a long way."

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4th July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, July 05, 2017 05:56:53
A solo trip.

At the current end of Merlin's, attended to widening the narrow fissure to make for more comfortable digging. 6no. holes, plus an extra one for the trimmings, on either side of the opening. Spent some time making sure the holes were well-stemmed. Then, a steady retreat, reeling-out the wire, stopping at Stal Bend. All was good.

There should be stuff to clear on the weekend. Hopefully, someone will be able to rake-out the debris blocking the narrow fissure and see whether it widens, or, if there's any draught.

Exited the cave into a warm, humid evening.

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1st July 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, July 02, 2017 07:59:45
With Jake, Jonathon and Brockers.

Jonathon digging, I was in the Tuck Shop, Brockers at the top of the slope and Jake on the haul and shuttle.

After reeling in the wire, I went to the end to look at the damage, some fly-rock, some gravel and fractured rock, not quite as much as I had expected. Then, moved out of the way so that Jonathon could get to work. It could do with being a bit wider at the end as hammer and chisel work is rather restricted. The outcome, 19 bags and 6 skip-loads of rock were eventually hauled out to the surface.

It could be said that the prospects for following the narrow fissure are not exactly inspiring, some thought is required regarding the next best move. At least two of the possibilities appear to lead in the wrong direction and another northerly lead, again is narrow, hmmm...!

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27th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 28, 2017 06:09:31
With Roz.

Continued to follow/expand the fissure, on the north-side, at the current end of Merlin's. Seven holes drilled, upping the ante with a change to the ingredients and adding some oomph. Because of the difficulties drilling some of the holes last week, used a blow-tube to clean-out the holes as I drilled. It went a lot better, although a couple of the holes were a tad awkward. Might have to consider making the approach a bit wider.

Anyway, all went off satisfactory manner, fly-rock was heard. It will be interesting on Saturday to see the results.

Exited the cave into rain, a bit different to last week.

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24th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Sun, June 25, 2017 12:17:57
With Jake, Tav, Brockers and Jonathon.

A rather disappointingly short session, the induced speleogenesis did not have the desired effect and the debris was quickly cleared. There are fractures but too tight to break-out. The narrow gap in the fissure has become filled with gravel and didn't look all that enticing. We spent some time looking around and discussing a couple of alternative options before making our way-out of the cave, and up to the pub after getting changed.

Following a conservation with Jake, over a pint, we'll persevere a little longer with the expansion of the narrow fissure. I might, just change the ingredients to give a little more oomph to the speleogenesis process.

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20th June 2107

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 21, 2017 06:47:10
With Roz.

More induced rapid speleogenesis. Continuing the expansion of the narrow gap to the north of the current end of Merlin's. Six holes, plus a shorter one for the trimmings, concentrated on the right-side. Some of the holes weren't so easy to drill, the bit was binding, probably a calcite/mineral vein.

The task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

After a warm few days, I opted for cotton overalls, good choice, the cave is almost dry, just a small puddle along the haul and shuttle route, and still damp in the Tuck Shop, but I was comfortable.

Coming out of the cave, the heat is noticeable, still in the twenties at 21:00hrs.

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17th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 19, 2017 06:38:41

I was on the Gower Peninsula this weekend with John Cooper (The Lost Caves of Gower Project). Others, though kept up the fight, here follows Tav's report:

"Jake digging, Tav in the Tuck Shop, John 'Tarantella' Riley on the slope and Brockers on haul & shuttle.

23 bags of gravel and 10 loads of rocks were extracted to surface. The way on appeared to be a dead end alcove at first but a narrow continuation appeared late on in proceedings. Current state appears inconclusive. Consensus was that rather than attack the rift direct it would be good to zap the floor area above it first to widen the working area. Jake was going to try and send a photo, although obviously he'll need assistance from Sam!

Hot and clegs so went to the pub."

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13th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 14, 2017 06:28:08
With Roz.

A warm walk up to the cave entrance, and the clegs are back.

At the current end of Merlin's, I drilled 6no. holes either side of a narrow fissure that appears to lead north and downwards. An extra hole was utilised for the trimmings.

Hopefully, the induced rapid speleogenesis will have had the desired effect and created plenty of debris to be cleared on the weekend.

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10th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Mon, June 12, 2017 06:45:47
With Nick, Tav, Jake, Matt, Brockers and Jonathon.

Brockers and Jonathon went off to the end to clear the debris and fill bags, after reeling in the wire. Matt was in the Tuck Shop, Jake at the top of the slope and I was on the haul and shuttle. Nick and Tav were on the surface looking after spoil management and other things.

Initially, a steady flow of rocks and filled bags came from the end. Then, towards the end of the session, things slowed, so I took the opportunity to go up to the dig and see the damage for myself. The outcome from the last bout of rock engineering was disappointing, the small gap had closed-down, just solid rock. Straight ahead (south-west) and to the left, the passage is choked with calcite and sediment but this is going in the wrong direction. Back in the east-west fissure the is a narrow gap leading north and downwards, I have already paid some attention to this but it was not very effective. Paul had cleared-out some of the debris and another shot might be more successful. I will try and get something sorted for Tuesday evening.

And that was it really...time for the pub.

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6th June 2017

digging 2017Posted by Vince Simmonds Wed, June 07, 2017 06:30:27
With Roz.

Some induced rapid speleogenesis required, 6no. holes drilled at the current end of Merlin's, on the right-hand side, where there is a small gap over a calcited (?) blockage. Some of the holes were a bit awkward, especially with the longer drill bit (460mm), but the job was done.

A few puddles along the way after the recent heavy rain.

The evening's task was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

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